Sunday, June 19, 2005

Hometown Watering Holes (Atlanta Edition)

So last week, Marsha and I were in the ATL. While there, we made a point of getting out in the city as much as possible.

Though I grew up in Atlanta, going out (to bars) there for me is almost like going out in a strange city. I moved away only a few months after my 21st birthday. And to tell the truth, I was so poor during that time that I really didn't have much to go out on anyway.

There were two places where I could get consistently served before I was 21--neither of them (coincidentally?) exist anymore.

Thursday night, we went out with my sister. We started at the Park Tavern, located at the southeast corner of Piedmont Park at 10th and Monroe. When I lived there, it was called The Mill--though very little has changed as far as I can tell. Same menu, same brewmaster, and the beer is still very good. As we ate on the patio, and it was still pretty tropical outside, I wasn't up for sampling a variety of ales. Instead, I stuck with the Druid Pils pilsner. (Druid Hills is a neighborhood in east Atlanta). Their interpretation of the Czech-style brew is a bit less hoppy and effervescent than some others I've had (think Pilsner Urquell), but still rather good. Most of the hops are in the aroma, along with slightly floral overtones. The flavor is solid, and has a very smooth finish. Great for a hot, humid evening. I had three, and washed them down with a plate of pecan-smoked ribs.

Marsha, my sister Liz, and me at the Park Tavern (sunset and Midtown skyline in the background).

After strolling across the park lawn and taking in a free showing of To Kill a Mockingbird, we went down to Virginia Highlands and ended up at the Atkins Park Tavern on Highland Avenue. This is just a great little neighborhood bar, (not many of these left in Atlanta) and is apparently the oldest continuously licensed tavern in the city. It actually reminds me more of the kind of place you'd find in Boston, New York, or Chicago...long bar perpendicular to the street, a row of booths down the opposite wall, dark and dingy with a high painted tin ceiling, and plenty of regulars. I had a local favorite, Sweetwater 420--a crisp, hoppy pale ale, though not as hoppy as I remember it tasting back in college. Probably my palette has changed.

OK, I actually had a couple.

Friday night Marsha and I slipped away to the Fox and Hound on Collier Road (can't find a decent link). We were actually looking for another place (one of the aforementioned bars that no longer exists) but ended up there instead. A pretty decent mockup of an English pub (except they have table service available). Ancient carpet, wood paneled walls, low tables and benches around the walls, high tables in the middle. It seemed appropriate for the rainy evening. Surprisingly not busy for a Friday night, the crowd consisted mostly of Georgia Tech students (easily spotted by the trained eye) and young professionals indigenous to the area. Poker games at a couple of tables--you know, the kind where the rules are being constantly explained and the chip holders are still nice and shiny.

I had a couple of pints of Fullers ESB. Not local, but not available on tap (and only very rarely in the bottle) in Tucson, either.

Saturday afternoon was the engagement "open house" that my parents threw for us. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, I guess (though there were more people there than will be at our actual wedding), but still, we were most pleased that Stephanie (Chris's wife) whisked us away for dinner and drinks afterwards.

Little Five Points was on the agenda. We had dinner at the Brewhouse Cafe at the corner of Moreland, Euclid, and McLendon. The food is nothing to write home about, but the patio is an ideal view on the neighborhood, and the beer selection is very good. L5P, however, appears to have lost a bit of its edge in the past few years. Khakis were as common as tattoos and piercings...definitely a change of pace, but everyone seems to be getting along.

The Brewhouse also has the distinction of being where I was taken for lunch my first day at work in a real laboratory back in the summer of '98, and where my project was first discussed. (There was a World Cup game on, and it was not to be missed). I think we talked about DNA or something, but we talked more about beer and soccer.

Thus, the tone of my career was set. Those of you that know me professionally probably realize that this explains a great deal.

I had a Terrapin Rye Pale Ale, which, while not very memorable, still qualifies as one of the very few good things to ever come out of Athens, GA.

After dinner, we walked a block up Moreland to The Vortex. The Vortex, though only open since 1992, still qualifies as an institution in a city that has a habit of tearing itself down and rebuilding every few years. (Sherman started something of a trend, I suppose.) The crowd here--though still, surprisingly not busy--was much more as I remembered Little Five. Funky, eclectic, and friendly. I had to have a Laughing Skull, the Atlanta Brewing Company's pilsner named for the Vortex's trademark. Personally, I think this beer has been unfairly panned over at BeerAdvocate, but maybe my judgment is clouded by sentimentality (this was another favorite of mine back in college). While I do think it is even less true to the pilsner style than the Druid Pils, I think it is a good beer nonetheless--they just might ought to consider calling it an "American lager" or some other term that doesn't carry such specific expectations. It's grainy and slightly peppery in a very unconventional way, but the flavor and mouthfeel stay nice and light. Again, I think this is very appropriate for the climate, and it makes me sad that no one in Tucson has yet caught on to the fact that hot towns need lagers.

All in all, a good trip on the beer front.

Next week: Munster and Amsterdam. I'll try to keep my wits about me enough to report something of value. Stay tuned.


  • At 11:49 PM, Blogger marsha said…

    actually, the food at brewhouse was closer to aweful than 'nothing to write home about' (and might explain why we ate again at the vortex). but i had a few stella's and good company so i didn't care much.

    wish there had been stella on tap at the engagement party....

  • At 7:06 PM, Blogger chris said…

    I met the guy who owns Terrapin. Weird dude. Met him at Sweetwater one afternoon during a "brewery tour." By the way, you should have gone there on Thursday afternoon, but I wasn't there to make sure you did what you needed to. Anyhow, his cream ale is okay, and when you get a good batch of the pale ale, the hops flavor will seriously kick your ass. Unfortunately, it seems like either the quality control over there is crpatastic or the distributors or bars aren't doing their part to take care of the kegs.

    Oddly enough, their bottles are distributed from somewhere in Maryland. You think it's a big winner at U Maryland?

  • At 10:13 AM, Blogger Kyle said…

    Don't forget the B-52's.

  • At 12:21 PM, Blogger Brian said…

    I'm trying.


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